WHO accuses China of hiding data on Covid origin
March 18, 2023  08:22
The World Health Organisation rebuked Chinese officials for withholding scientific research that may reveal the origin of the coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

The WHO on Friday also asked the Chinese official about the reasons behind not revealing the data three years ago and why, after it was published online in January, it could not be found now.

Before the data got vanished into the internet space, an international team of virus experts downloaded and began analysing the research. The team revealed that the data supports the idea that the pandemic could have begun from the illegally traded raccoon dogs, which infected the humans at China's Wuhan Huanan seafood wholesale market.

But the team couldn't reach the final result as the gene sequences were removed from a scientific database once the experts offered to collaborate on the analysis with their Chinese counterparts, according to The New York Times.

"These data could have -- and should have -- been shared three years ago," Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director general, said. 

The missing evidence now "needs to be shared with the international community immediately," he said.

According to the expert team, which was reviewing the data, the research offers evidence that raccoon dogs, fox-like animals known to spread coronaviruses, had left behind DNA in the same place in the Wuhan market that genetic signatures of the new coronavirus also were discovered.

To some experts, that finding suggests that the animals may have been infected and may have transmitted the virus to humans.

With huge amounts of genetic information drawn from swabs of animal cages, carts and other surfaces at the Wuhan market in early 2020, the genetic data had been the focus of restless anticipation among virus experts since they learned of it a year ago in a paper by Chinese scientists, reported The New York Times.

Meanwhile, a French biologist discovered the genetic sequences in the database last week and her team began mining for clues about the origins of the pandemic.

That team has not yet released a paper outlining the findings. But the researchers delivered an analysis of the material to a WHO advisory group studying Covid's origins this week in a meeting that also included a presentation by Chinese researchers regarding the same data.

The analysis seems to be different from what China has presented, according to Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.
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